Since reinventing himself as a hipster-haired master of brostep, Skrillex has been adopted as a hero by the fratboy festival crowd, worked with everyone from psychedelic rock gods The Doors to French DJ crew Birdy Nam Nam and won an astonishing six Grammy Awards, all without the aid of a proper full-length studio effort.
Seven years after leaving post-hardcore outfit From First To Last to pursue a solo career, the DJ/producer formerly known as Sonny Moore has now finally dropped his debut album, Recess, via the rather unorthodox method of Alien Ride, a mobile app which gradually unveiled each of its eleven speaker-blasting tracks through a Space Invaders-style arcade game.
Skrillex’s pre-release mission statement (“I want people who hear my music to feel like they’re on all these drugs but they’re not on any drugs”) didn’t inspire much confidence that the 26-year-old had moved away from the kind of brainless bass drops and headache-inducing beats that has made him such a divisive figure amongst the dance community.
And things don’t exactly get off to a promising start with opener “All Is Fair In Love and Brostep” a predictably bombastic collaboration with jungle veterans Ragga Twins who first unleashed their distinctive brand of chaos when Skrillex was still in nappies. It’s not the only time when Skrillex wastes the talents of his eclectic guest list by drowning out their contribution with his aggressive and abrasive production.
K-Pop superstars G-Dragon and CL are rendered virtually anonymous by the whirlwind of filthy basslines and twitchy bleeps on the suitably-titled “Dirty Vibe.” Elsewhee, it’s difficult to determine labelmate Alvin Risk’s influence on the bludgeoning Skrillex-by-numbers of “Try It Out.”
But although Recess contains its fair share of generic and hopelessly unsubtle dubstep, there are several more encouraging moments where Skrillex appears to have realised he can’t keep on pushing the same wall of sound forever.
The title track is a wildly inventive blend of dancehall beats and laser-firing synths which sees Fatman Scoop’s hype-man chants and Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos vie for the center of attention. Indie-folk troubadour Kid Harpoon lends his wistful tones to “Fire Away,” a surprisingly mellow closer which could almost be described as chill-out. There are also convincing forays into tropical house (“F*** That”), jazz-tinged breakbeat (“Coast Is Clear”) and Aphex Twin-esque IDM (“Doompy Poomp”).
An inconsistent affair then, but Recess is a far more adventurous listen than his previous array of EPs, thus proving that Skrillex is far more palatable when he changes his default setting.